The Digital Europe Programme (DIGITAL) is part of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 of the European Union (EU), alongside Horizon Europe and other EU sectorial programmes. It focuses its activities on the deployment of digital technologies in a scalable and sustainable way, strengthening Europe's competitiveness and strategic autonomy and building the strategic digital capabilities of EU Member States (as well as countries associated to the program).
There is support for activities that aim at the acquisition and upgrade of digital infrastructures (e.g. high-performance computing infrastructures and AI testing and experimentation facilities, data spaces), the use of digital technologies in public administration (e.g. electronic identification systems, such as eIDs), cybersecurity resilience, and education and training in advanced digital skills.
The Digital Europe Programme is not a research programme, however it supports more mature technology development phases (high TRLs) and market uptake of products and services based on digital technologies that may have resulted from R&I projects funded by national or European programmes (such as Horizon Europe).
From a strategic standpoint, the Programme is aligned with the Commission's vision for the Digital Decade and should therefore contribute to the achievement of the digital goals for 2030.
Structure and Specific Objectives
The Programme drives investments in five interrelated specific objectives (SOs), as set out in the respective Regulation, with an EU contribution of 7 588 M€ between 2021 and 2027, in current prices. The SOs are presented below, together with the distribution of the EU contribution for each of them (approximate figures):
- SO1 - High Performance Computing (HPC): €2 227 M
- SO2 - Artificial Intelligence (including also cloud and data): 2 062 M€
- SO3 - Cybersecurity and Trust: 1 650 M€
- SO4 - Advanced digital skills: 577 M€
- SO5 - Deployment and best use of digital capabilities and interoperability: 1 072 M€
DIGITAL covers a wide range of technologies and digital infrastructures, promotes the modernisation of public administrations and businesses and the development of advanced digital skills with applications in different sectors of activity, namely: healthcare, judiciary, energy and environment, mobility and smart-cities, construction, manufacturing, culture and the media.
Note: there is ongoing negotiation of the "European Chips Act" which, once adopted, may introduce a new specific objective (SO6) dedicated to the area of electronic components, semiconductors and processors.
The various specific objectives of the Digital Europe Program are implemented in different ways, depending on the specificities of each area. Some of the implementation mechanisms are exemplified below:
- "SO1 - High Performance Computing" is mainly implemented through the public-private partnership EuroHPC (with co-funding from the Digital Europe Programme, Horizon Europe and the "Connecting Europe Facility"). More information can be found on the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking page. Portugal is a Participating State in EuroHPC and contributes to the respective European infrastructure, namely through "Deucalion", a supercomputer that is part of the Rede Nacional de Computação Avançada, and through "Mare Nostrum5" (in a collaboration with Spain).
- "SO2 - Artificial Intelligence," which covers as well cloud and data, is implemented by the services of the European Commission through a diverse set of measures that include, for example, the AI Testing and Experimentation Facilities and the "data spaces" dedicated to different activity sectors.
- "SO3 - Cybersecurity" will be implemented by the European Cybersecurity Competence Centre (ECCC) once it is fully established. Until then it will be implemented by the European Commission services in collaboration with the authorities of the respective Member States. In the case of Portugal, the competent authority is the National Cybersecurity Center. This is a tripartite consortium composed of the National Center for Cybersecurity (CNCS), in a leading role, the National Innovation Agency (ANI) and the FCT, as defined in the Despacho n.º 11491/2022 of September 7.
- "SO4 - Advanced DigitalSkills" is implemented by the European Health and Digital Agency (HaDEA), supported by the "Digital Skills and Jobs" platform.
- In the context of "SO5 - better use of digital capabilities" there is support for the European network of Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs). A number of Portuguese Hubs contribute to the EDIHs network, some of which make up the network of Portuguese Digital Innovation Hubs.
The Digital Europe Programme funds the activities described in the Work Programmes through different mechanisms: procurement, grants (e.g. simple grants, SME support grants), coordination and support actions (CSA), among others.
In the case of grants, as a rule, EU co-funding is often limited to 50% of total eligible costs (with some exceptions, namely in the case of CSAs and SME support grants). Other costs should be supported through own funds (including in-kind contributions) and through synergies with national funds, structural funds or Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRF) funds, when dedicated co-financing mechanisms are in place.
At national level, co-funding mechanisms have been set up through specific measure of RRF for the Portuguese participation in the European network of Digital Innovation Hubs and in sectoral "AI Testing and Experimentation Facilities".
Depending on the specificities of a given call for proposals or procurement action the beneficiaries of the DIGITAL projects can be virtually any type of organisation ranging from public administration, research centres, universities, and industry (in some cases with added incentives for SMEs).
However, it should be noted that, given the nature of the programme and its political objectives, the participation of third countries (i.e., non-EU countries and countries not associated to the Programme) can be severally restricted in some actions, particularly those associated to cybersecurity, cloud and data infrastructures (according to articles 12.5, 12.6 and 18 of the respective Regulation).
Public versions of the Work Programmes defining the calls for proposals for funding of Digital Europe Programme activities in 2023-2024 are now available:
Other Work Programmes, including the one corresponding to the European Digital Innovation Hubs (2021-23) and the annual EuroHPC Partnership Work Programme, are available in this webpage.